Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We've Moved!!

Our blogger home has been a blast, but we foodies have decided to move on to our very own domain space at (drum roll please)...

Drop on by and let us know what you think!

Kitchen Experiment Gone Right

I'm the kind of person who likes to follow directions. Doesn't really matter what they are, but I figure everything should turn out moderately well if directions are followed. Same is true for recipes. The step by step instructions usually lead you toward a decent finished product. Now, I know from personal experience that, especially with recipes, even the most specific directions don't always yield the expected results. And every once in a while I get brave enough to throw caution to the wind and make up my own.

Last night, R was making his famous lemon and garlic pasta, but I wanted something extra to go with it. R loves bruschetta and I had a quickly-ripening tomato, so it seemed like a good plan. After consulting some reliable recipes, I chose to go it on my own. And the results were fantastic! Ripe tomatoes, freshly baked bread and high quality parmesan cheese made the perfect combination for an easy bruschetta. The fresh flavor complimented the garlic in the pasta with a lightness the meal needed.

I used a French baguette and found the pieces to be slightly small. Next time I'd try to find a wider Italian bread, I think. I'd also cut them a little thinner - it's hard to bite into a 1-inch thick piece of bread! All in all it was a very successful attempt and I was proud of my creation. But I don't think I'm quite ready to get rid of the cookbooks yet....



2 large tomatoes
1 loaf Italian bread
3-4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 C. onion, chopped
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese


Seed and dice tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add basil, garlic, onion, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut bread into slices 1/2-inch thick. Drizzle grill pan with olive oil. Place slices on pan, turning each piece of bread to make sure both sides have oil. Toast bread over medium heat until both sides are golden brown. If you don't have a grill pan, this can be done in the toaster oven.

Top each slice of bread with a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Using a vegetable peeler, shave long curls of parmesan and top each bread slice with a curl.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, July 9, 2007

Taste of Chicago

From catfish to oxtail, Chicago has no shame. City vendors will fry just about anything to serve up one of the greasiest festivals known to man. But that doesn't stop me from going, every year.

Depending on where you're from, you may or may not be familiar with the annual summer food fest in Chicago nicknamed the "Taste." If you're not, just like you might imagine, it's quite literally a taste of Chicago's cuisine (do NOT take this to mean that grease is all Chicago has to offer, it is by no means an exhaustive collection of Chicago's fine dining). More specifically, it's a 10-day event that hosts almost 60 restaurant vendors throughout Chicagoland. Each station has a "taste portion" for 3 tickets (approximately $2) to allow for more accessible sampling.

Anyway, yesterday was the last day and I made it there in the nick of time. I sort of make it my duty to try and go annually, so that I can feel like I've done my job as a Chicagoan. This year I made myself extra proud because I braved the 92-degree heat! (I drank a TON of water.)

But let's be honest, I eat the same food every year. So I guess I'm not really "tasting" much, just showing my support. Give or take a couple of variances, each year my stomach has to deal with at least one Indian samosa from Arya Bhavan, one pierogi from Kasia's, a slice of deep dish from one of the many pizza places (this year it was Bacino's pizza of Lincoln Park), and the ever delicious Original Rainbow Cone (an aggregate cup of pistachio, cherry, orange sherbert, Palmer and chocolate ice cream.) But don't think this year's list stopped right there. Those were just the staples. I also sampled a famous Billy Goat hamburger, a fried chicken wing, a frozen banana, beef on a stick, and....that may be it.

Oh no, wait. I was pleasantly surprised to see a new item that piqued my interest: Chocolate-Dipped Ginger Saffron Cookies from Vermilion, but in all honesty, they weren't as good as they sounded. The cookie was a bit dryer than I would have liked.

(Yes, I have it displayed in the grass, there aren't too many other seats at the Taste.)

All in all, the gorging fest met my expectations. 41 food tickets (a friend and I split!) and a full stomach, for the most part, later, I did not go home disappointed.

-Hillary, wishing "Hey Sushi" would come back to the Taste and serve their delicious fried green-tea ice cream
Editor, Recipe4Living

I need an ice cream maker.

I'm rapidly turning into an ice cream snob.

First came the days of Breyers, whose classy (and actually minty) Mint Chocolate Chip made me turn up my nose at Edys' green, nearly flavorless junk. Then Haagen-Dazs, with its rich vanilla and decadent caramel. Now I balk at anything less than Oberweis, in my opinion the nation's finest iced cream (narrowly beating out Gilles Frozen Custard, mainly because of proximity).

And after seeing all these recipes for DIY sorbet, gelato, custard...I have to make some of my own. Meaning I need an ice cream maker. Meaning, unfortunately, I need to spend more than they charge for a shake at my local Ice Cream Shoppe.

Now, I'm not opposed to spending money on indulgences. I have a staggering DVD collection and I'll be wasting $400 come September so's I can play one game. But those things last forever! Ice cream doesn't last an hour in my house!

Still, I must. A whole world of culinary experimentation and unnecessary weight gain beckons, yearns, cries "Smylie!" at night while I sleep--

Look, I'm not crazy, I just really like ice cream. So I need your help. Where should I start? What brands are the best? Do I go manual or spring for electric?

Oh ye all-known sages of confection (all of whom, like, totally read our blog), please give me some tips. Because I need to make this recipe as soon as possible.

-Jim, hoping he gets to try all these soon, too

Wake Up!

Have you seen the commercial recently with all the people yawning to advertise the new, more-caffeinated Pepsi Max? I've been watching Wimbledon on TV lately (yes, I woke up at 9am on Sunday morning with J* to watch Federer, J*'s icon, vs. Nadal, personally my favorite...his right arm is crazily bigger than his left). I yawn every time I see this commercial, and think about making a cup of tea. I suspect that this commercial is a rip-off of a popular Starbucks' commercial (do they need advertising?), but that's really not the point here.

The point IS why don't they (they being the man) post the amount of caffeine on bottles of soda? I am trying very, very hard to give up soda, but I still think this would be an important factor in consumer decisions. Sometimes you don't want to feel like a hummingbird in the afternoon, and sometimes you need a little something extra. Luckily, The Journal of Food Science analyzed the caffeine content in some of the more popular soda brands. Here are a couple highlights:

Coca-Cola (33.9 mg/12 oz)
Diet Coke (46.3 mg/12 oz)
Pepsi (38.9 mg/12 oz)
Diet Pepsi (36.7 mg/12 oz)
Dr Pepper (42.6 mg/12 oz)
Diet Dr Pepper (44.1 mg/12 oz)
Mountain Dew (54.8 mg/12 oz)
Diet Mountain Dew (55.2 mg/12 oz)

With the exception of Diet Pepsi, why do most of the diet versions have more caffeine than the regular? Hmmm.

-Caley, sipping on tea and not Pepsi Max

Friday, July 6, 2007

Your Weekly Libation

Instead of recommending a cocktail this week, I'm gonna push a product from off-site that's near and dear to my heart: Woodchuck Dark & Dry 802 Draft Cider. Someone at Woodchuck's laboratories (filled with mad scientists and in a skull-shaped orchard, no doubt) heard my demands for a dryer, crisper cider, and they delivered in spades. It's not a full escape from the soda pop-sweetness mass-produced ciders all suffer, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

So instead of getting yet another case of that Johnny-come-lately beer, stop by your local liquor store and try out a six-pack of Dark & Dry. If you aren't happy with your purchase, drink the remaining five bottles really fast, and you'll get happy pretty quickly.

-Jim out, mourning Cider's sad history

An Ode to Pasta and Meat Sauce

I came home from work last night ravenous for a well-balanced and filling meal. Lucky for me, some delicious pasta and meat sauce were awaiting my arrival. In my relief and satisfaction, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted.

To me, there is something comforting about pasta and meat sauce. Maybe it's the fact that it has been a family staple for years, or maybe it's the simplicity. Probably both, but the best part about it is how easy and inexpensive it is to cook such a delicious and substantial meal.

So, without further adieu... my dinner:

To replicate the image seen here, all you need to do is saute some ground beef. Mix it with Barilla pasta sauce and pour it atop some mostaccioli. Or, you can make your own pasta sauce of course, but store-bought sauces work perfectly well for a quick dinner. Serve with a salad and you're good to go.

-Hillary, wishing she was back in San Diego
Editor, Recipe4Living